Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to pull the “main part” of Russian forces in Syria out of the country on Tuesday. Putin said that Russia largely achieved its goals in the country so the large force would not longer be needed. In addition, the withdrawal comes as peace talks renew over the crisis in Syria.
The Russian military largely succeeded in its goals to support Syrian President Bashir al-Assad against rebel forces in the country. The Russian military began conducting air strikes last September and have helped the Syrian government regain almost 4,000 square miles of land from the rebels.
President al-Assad’s office said in a statement that he agreed to the withdrawal and felt that it was “in accordance with the situation on the ground.”
Russia is a close ally of Syria’s and President Putin has said that the international community should recognize and support what he calls the legitimate government in Syria. Critics claim Presidnet al-Assad lost legitimacy when it began waging war on his citizens.
“I consider the mission set for the defense ministry and the armed forces on the whole has been accomplished, ” President Putin said at the Kremlin. “I am therefore ordering the defence ministry to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our military force from the Syrian Arab Republic from tomorrow.”
Two of Russia’s bases will continue to operate normally as President Putin said that they must be protected “from land, air and sea.”
The move was a surprise to the international community. President Obama called President Putin over the decision and the two discussed Syrian policy. However, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “We will have to see exactly what Russia’s intentions are.”